Constantly being mistaken for a racist.

Elijah Trew
6 min readJul 26, 2018


2018 — Glasgow, Scotland

Growing up as a white boy in a third world Latino country in South America ensured that I was always conscious of my skin colour. In fact, I’d say my upbringing has given me a bit of a unique understanding into the rife racism within western first world countries. Of course, I will never fully experience institutionalised racism, but it gives me an ability to empathise. Providing me with a shred of insight into a decaying affliction — an affliction that we, as a united human people, do not want festering in our world any longer.

My parents are devout Protestants, who taught me to love everyone, period. Something I greatly pride myself on; my upbringing allowing me to empathise with minority groups, and those persecuted. To experience isolation and be ostracised because of something you cannot control is heart-breaking. I truly hope that it is something I will never have to experience on the level that some others might in their lifetime.

But to get to the topic of mistaken identity, it is first imperative that my contextual passion for punk and rock n roll is indulged. Living in the north of Ireland, where I was born in Belfast city centre: upon returning to my place of birth at the age of 8, provides you with a penchant to be a creative, tradesman or politician. You cannot live in this country without its’ past creeping up on you with a knife ready to slice at your throat and gut your stomach, hearing stories from your parents of old friends who got murdered or blown up. That’s simply the way it was for our parents, and out of this murder, violence and war sprung up the Ulster punk scene. A necessity born of the rage of youths.

“When punk rock ruled over Ulster nobody ever had more excitement and fun. Between the bombings and shootings, the religious hatred and the settling of old scores, punk gave everybody a chance to LIVE for one glorious burning moment.” -Joe Strummer

Bands that you may have heard of and bands you most definitely have not, ruled the airwaves like drunken kings and queens upon the night of their coronation. It was the biggest fuck you to the governments that created this problem, and to the paramilitary organisations that strove to keep Catholics and Protestants apart from each other. Naturally I was drawn to punk rock and its origins, due to my home country being steeped in the stuff. So, for a while I was punk.

Eventually a desire for something new and fresh arose, and though still a punk at heart I started delving further into music and subcultural history -eventually coming upon Skinhead culture. A movement that solely arose through the influx of Jamaican immigrants to England in the 60s, with them bringing style, sophistication and a love of music. Specifically, the rhythmic melodies of reggae and the later progression to ska from the amalgamation of white and black people dancing and working together by forming meaningful multicultural friendships in the factories of London. Skinhead for me is more than just a rudeboy image from Jamaica with an anglicised tweak, it was a harmonious lifestyle. Music and friendship transcending race.

There have been plenty of documentaries outlining its true peaceful origins, BBC4s ‘The story of skinhead with Don Letts’ a prominent figure in British subcultural history, being part of the first generation of children born to the Jamaican immigrants and an original London skinhead. Allowing him to witness the blossoming of this provocative style of clothing. Big boots, braces, crisp trousers, clean well-kept shirts and jackets were an essential part of the style. Doc Marten boots eventually becoming a staple of identification for skinheads, alongside popular brands such as “Ben Sherman”, “Brutus” and “Fred Perry”. As well as the now infamous closely shaven head.

Black Dr Marten Boots, Levi 501 Jeans and a Harrington jacket.

So prominent was the pull of skinhead that Jamaican reggae artists took notice of this burgeoning subculture and began tailoring their songs to these people. A new wave of music washed over the U.K. once English men and women started forming their own bands in an attempt to create their own similar types of music emulating Ska. 2Tone Ska was born in the 70s and a later third wave would arise in the 80s. Popular bands such as Madness, The Specials, Toots and the Maytails, Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as The Beat all making use of the Caribbean bass line to great effect.

But there are two sides to every story.

Due to the unstable politics at the time a multicultural paradise like that was never meant to last, for who has ever heard of political stability alongside compassion towards people with cultural differences…

A vicious toxin started polluting the ideals of these working class men and women, and unfortunately racism has always been notoriously easy to slip into the lives and mindsets of the working class.

Around the 80s drips of racism had begun to be amplified by the football hooliganism culture England is renowned for. Football firms started adopting the skinhead style tailoring it to their own plot devices. Creating a narrative that to be a skinhead was to be a Nazi and a right-wing fascist, tying it neatly up with the idea that if you liked football then you’ll love racism, and being a skinhead. Thoroughly warping the subculture. Soon far right political movements began taking notice of the multicultural skinheads and decided that enough was enough, they would not stand for black and white people mixing and enjoying themselves, these were not ‘English’ principles.

Everything the original skinheads stood for was disappearing before their eyes, the National Front sold propaganda at football matches, opened members only clubs in rural locations, forcing right wing views on people in order for access. They attempted to separate, spread hate and caution between people of different races manufacturing tension out of a place of warmth and acceptance. It took a matter of months for them to succeed impregnating the public with the view that skinheads are scum.

Right wing bands such as Screwdriver led the chase on the musical scene, now known as one of the most racist musical groups in pop culture. Through these artist’s, music and violence became synonymous with skinheads, examples of riots across the U.K. being enough proof for members of political parties to realise that their messages had begun to perforate into this once great subculture. Racism had now been neatly sealed, packaged and sold to the masses and skinheadism had been established as a far-right movement for white supremacists by the media.

In more modern history there has been one significant depiction of skinheads that portrayed both aspects of this subculture and managed to do so whilst winning a bafta. ‘This is England’, a movie about a boy who finds his way into a group of harmless skinheads until a radicalized friend of theirs fresh out of prison attempts to divide the companions with his new political agenda. Shane Meadows taking inspiration directly from his own childhood and experiences telling a story of tragedy and beauty. The movie being a catalyst for my own investigations deeper into the roots of reggae, ska and skinhead with the eventual decision to become one myself thanks to some persuasion from friends of mine and the choice to stand for love between humanity.

However it does come with it’s prejudgements and the establishing of an initial identity as a Neo-Nazi within people’s minds when I first meet them until I refute their questions and try to explain that the media has warped what it means to be a skinhead. Which is why it is an act of defiance in the face of the world to be a skinhead today. When so many people assume the worst through the mask of ignorance, to openly stand up for what is right and be shunned due to preconceptions shows strength of character and resilience. To stand alongside a subculture tainted with bitterness and viewed so discriminately by the public, yet to stand tall in the knowledge that you are playing your part in taking back the word Skinhead. Reaffirming it to mean inclusivity and friendship, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age.

Skinhead means love and it is a lifestyle I will never stop living.



Elijah Trew

Passionate advocate of my own opinion. Welcome to the fever dream.